Sreedevi K. Nair
Sreedevi K. Nair
For Sreedevi K. Nair, the infinite languages of sounds and silences, lend form, shape and soul to her world. Academic, Researcher, Translator- there are many roles she fulfils with élan. Formerly Associate Professor and Head of the Department of English of NSS College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. Dr. Nair’s nuanced and committed translations have seen her becoming the first person from Kerala to be awarded the Charles Wallace India Trust Translator Fellowship which was spent at the British Centre for Literary Translation, University of East Anglia, UK. She also considers as her life’s work, documenting women writers from Kerala and bringing questions of education and social equity into the spectrum of everyday visibility.
After all, these are the semantics of the infinite languages that populate our world.
Marguerite Duras is a widely read and critically acclaimed French writer of the twentieth century. Duras is no stranger to India. Her “India Cycle Series” had India as the background. However, Duras’ works have not found a loyal readership in the country, maybe because of the deceptively scattered looking nature of some of her major works. Another reason could be that none of Duras’s works have been translated into any of the Indian languages.
This translation brings to those in Kerala, an opportunity to read Duras in Malayalam. Sreedevi K Nair has moved into the language, this intense story of love/pranayam as she has decided to translate the title into Malayalam, adding that delicate scent of the distant seas to Duras’ smouldering prose. It reminds us of a fresh and clear morning on a beach after a particularly fierce bout of rain.
T. Padmanabhan (2020)
A collection of thirty world- class stories which bring to light the little- known culture of Kerala, India. These stories of exemplary craftsmanship contest an isolated, insular world view, and celebrate a truly inclusive one not just of human beings but of plants, insects, birds, and animals. T. Padmanabhan’s stories, told in a language of lyrical excellence, transform the ordinary, the mundane and the commonplace into timeless stories of compassion, empathy, love and hope. The book carries a scholarly ‘Introduction’, a highly insightful ‘Translator’s Note’, and a fascinating ‘Interview’ of the author.
“Translation is a sort of alchemy too. Translators add to the text that exists, something of their own and make it richer.”
Translation is not just a task or a project for Sreedevi K. Nair. It is a commitment. Each work is seen as a living person- with individual characteristics and networks of socio-political veins. The sensitivity of her translations comes from the strong rootedness in not just the established theories of Translation Studies, but also in the personal ethics she practices. She believes that while the translator is essentially a conduit, translations ought to be responsible and sentient. This resolves the dilemma of fidelity. Her translations are especially sensitive to mentions of discriminatory and regressive ideas. Her introductory notes to her translations are as sought after as the works themselves, finding a mention in the Routledge Handbook of Literary Translations (2016) and making her part of the list of Who’s Who of Translations (Intellect Books). For the sheer scope, interpretative value, cross-cultural translational complexity, Shakespeare and the Ramayana remain her eternal favourites.
She is currently working on translating Marguerite Duras' L'Amour from the French into Malayalam.
“If you are a woman who writes then there is a space for you. Women writers have the right to be known…”
More than 800 women writers from Kerala, read, critiqued, neatly profiled, presented. And not all of them were writers by the textbook definition of the word ‘Writer’. There were storytellers, lullaby singers, those who jotted down recipes, poets who wrote that one great poem- women prominent, women not so prominent, womenlost in the sound waves of louder more famous acoustics. This act of dedicated, scholarly acknowledgement by Sreedevi K. Nair was received with warmth and goodwill by the reading public and a commendation by the UN Women. It also informed all of her subsequent works with a heightened sense of historic awareness. She has gone on to be a vocal part of think tank initiatives and panels influencing policy decisions with regard to real time, qualitative change in the social equity of women.
“The children did not acquire any of the language skills and listened to English as if they had never heard that language before.”
This excerpt is from a landmark study by Sreedevi K. Nair that forever changed the geography of school education in Kerala. Conducted on the Government of Kerala’s flagship District Primary Education Programme, it resulted in the government ruling that henceforth English in schools in Kerala must be taught by only teachers with degrees in English, and in the process, creating tens of thousands of jobs for English graduates in the state. Her post-doctoral thesis on Education in Kerala in the the pre-British times further contextualized the ideations of education and their social stratifications. Dr. Nair has been a committed educator for over three decades and has been pushing for reforms in education and education technology, making her a sought after panelist on education at national and international venues.
“Why did Othello have to murder Desdemona even if he thought her false?”
Shakespeare, for Sreedevi K. Nair, holds immense fascination. The mutability of characters, the philosophies of human nature, the gems that reside in the midst of verbiage- are some areas that hold her interest. She believes that Shakespeare merits a nuanced adaptation,particularly in the present time. She has translated a number of his works for different target audiences.Her quest for a soul search into Othello and a desire to read resistance into the play saw her rooting the play in the culture of Kerala, drawing on the heroic Malayali woman, Unni Archa- thus simultaneously drawing attention to the performative aspects of translations and also to the feminist concerns regarding the Self.
These and other quests of Sreedevi K. Nair continue....